There are two ways that I’d like to remember Andy today. The first is as a member of the TCS class of 1996.
One of the benefits of going to a small, K-12 school is that you quite literally grow up with the people in your class. Some of you went to school with Andy from Pre-Kindergarten to Twelfth Grade. Andy Zell did that and even went to college with him! So there was plenty of time for us to know Andy, and I’m sure we all have a lot of wonderful stories we could, and will, tell.
Andy was everybody’s friend. To the class of ’96, I’m sure, when you found out what happened, you explained to your family and friends, “One of my good friends from high school was killed.” He was everybody’s friend. I doubt that any of us would refer to him simply as, “some guy I went to school with.” No, he was our friend. He was my friend.
Andy transcended the drama and the social cliques that come along with high school. He fit easily into everyone’s circle of friends. He was a part of everybody’s group. He was accepted by everyone, and accepting of everyone. He cared for us all.
Andy had a quality of character and integrity that you rarely find among grown men, much less in the heart of a high-school student. He dragged me along to confront a teacher once, because he knew that the way we were talking about this teacher behind his back was wrong, and he wanted to not only apologize, but to hear the teacher’s side of the story, as well.
Andy had our respect. He was so humble and unassuming, but his character and integrity could not be questioned. When he spoke, his words were so often life and light to our hearts. He was an encourager who saw the best in us. He was the best of us. He was a godly man.
We of the class of 1996 will always remember him for his smile, his kindness, his joy, his encouragement, and his love. We say, “Thank you, Andy, for being the boy and the man God made you to be, and thank you for being our friend.”
The second way I would like to remember Andy is as a fellow minister of the Lord. Andy’s life was about Jesus Christ. Everything else he did flowed out of his relationship with his savior. Andy loved Jesus, and Jesus loved Andy. And if there was one thing that he could say to all of you, I’m convinced it would be, “Jesus loves you.” Jesus loves you.
God gave Andy a vision for the Shan people in Thailand. Andy’s heart was gripped by the simple truth that Jesus loves them. This vision to reach the Shan quickly became Andy and Susanna’s dream. But as Susanna said at the funeral, “life has a way of happening.” And life happened, and the support didn’t come in, and the dream faded into the background. But Andy still loved Jesus, and he still wanted to serve him, so he decided that the best way to do that was to become a police officer.
It makes sense. When you arrest somebody, that’s a good chance to tell them, “Jesus loves you.”
I heard a story about a guy who came to Andy’s funeral. A reporter asked him, “How did you know Officer Widman?” He said, “He arrested me twice. I just had to come to pay my respects, because he was always so kind and friendly to me.”
Andy’s life was about Jesus, and Jesus shined his light through Andy’s life. Even more, Jesus shined his light through Andy’s death. All over the news, and out of the mouths of everyone who spoke of him, came a testimony of a man who loved and followed Jesus. The name of Jesus was lifted up in the life, and especially in the death, of Andy Widman. God saw fit to take this dark and evil event, and through it to bring light and goodness. What greater good can come from your life and death than for the name of Jesus Christ to be exalted?
Andy Widman loved Jesus Christ. He spent his life in service to his savior. He may have been killed as a police officer, but I believe that he died a martyr for Jesus. As he lay on that sidewalk, with open eyes and smiling face, we know that he saw Jesus, and he sped to heaven to be with his Lord.
We loved Andy. He loved us. And he would want you to know today that Jesus loves you. Toledo Christian class of 1996, let us not forget our friend and brother, and let us not forget the One for whom he lived and died.